A Guest Post from Produce for Better Health Foundation
It’s August. This means that, even though your kids are still thinking about sleeping in and hitting the pool, you’re thinking about fitting school supplies and new shoes into the budget. There are several things you will need to remember to pick up to ensure your child has a successful first day of class; pencils and paper, maybe a new calculator, and lots of fruits & veggies! Back-to-school time is the perfect time to think about adding more fruits & vegetables to your family’s meals and snacks.
Taking care of your child’s nutritional needs is important. Your best bet to ensure that healthy items in their lunch get eaten, not traded for high-calorie, less nutritious foods, is to pack fun fruits & veggies in their lunchbox. Typically, food that can be eaten with their hands is fun for kids. Think baby carrots, grape tomatoes, sugar snap peas and celery sticks. Send along low-fat salad dressing to use as a dip or, for a change of pace, give them salsa, guacamole or humus as dips. Fruit can be dipped in low-fat yogurt or peanut butter.
Bananas are another great lunch option. They don’t need to be washed sliced and kids can peal them themselves. Grapes, cherries and berries already come in kid-friendly sizes, and don’t forget about dried fruits like raisins, apricots, cranberries and plums. You can even find dried papaya and pineapple for a tasty tropical treat. None of these options need refrigerated so they will be safe and delicious even after a few hours in a locker or cubby.
Try cutting food into fun shapes using small cookie cutters or just a paring knife. Red bell peppers make pretty hearts or butterflies, and try turning yellow ones into stars. Several pre-cut and portion-packaged fruit & veggie items can also be found in your favorite supermarket. They provide a quick and convenient alternative to cleaning and trimming things yourself when packing lunch in a hurry.
A Thermos of vegetable soup can also pack quite a punch of nutrition and will warm your child up on a cold day. Even if you don’t have time to make soup from scratch, you can always improve on canned soups by adding additional frozen or canned veggies. This trick helps stretch soup farther and adds a boost of flavor and nutrition too.
Pack lunchbox items in fun, kid-sized containers. Colorful small plastic bowls with lids are just perfect for toting child-friendly amounts of food. Put lettuce, tomato slices and pickles in a separate plastic baggie and let the kids add these items to their sandwiches right before they eat them. This keeps the sandwich from getting soggy. Toss your child’s juice box in the freezer before packing it. It will thaw enough to drink by lunchtime and help keep other items in their lunchbox cool until then. Make sure that the juice box you choose is 100 percent juice, not all of them are.
Like New Year’s Day, the first day of school is a time to begin again, a time to set new goals and commit to small changes for the better. One of those changes should be eating more fruits and vegetables. Raisin Waldorf Salad (pictured above) and Carrot Tuna Vegetable Dip (pictured right) are two delicious, lunchbox friendly recipes that will help you fit more fruits and veggies into meals and snacks.
Visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org for user-friendly advice on how to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet; including, recipes, nutrition information, tips for getting kids to eat fruits and vegetables, and even videos.